I hadn’t expected my eyes to fill with tears or to choke up, almost unable to express my thanks to the person behind the pharmacy counter. Such sadness was unanticipated, yet there it was.
I don’t remember exactly when or where I met the DeBortoli family. But it was about forty-four years ago around the swimming pool at the South YMCA where our young sons proudly showed off their skills learned in the Tadpole swimming lessons. It wasn’t long before I learned that Jim Debortoli was the pharmacist at a neighborhood pharmacy. Not only because of the friendship, but also because he offered something special: free delivery of prescriptions, I immediately transferred our business there. I usually went to the store, but after sitting through a doctor’s appointment with a sick child, it was a wonderful to be able to take said sick child home, knowing the medication called in by the doctor would arrive at my door shortly.
Over the years the name of the store changed as Jim’s independent store was bought by larger drug stores. The store even changed location within the same small shopping center at some point. But the one constant was that our friend Jim remained the pharmacist, the smiling face behind the counter. Others joined him as the business grew, and I came to know many of them, especially after Jim’s untimely death several years ago. But to me it was always Jim’s store.
In recent months, the pharmacy department was bought by Walgreen’s. The transition seemed to go smoothly. I still went to the same counter where I was waited on by the same staff. Today that all changed. I’d received the letter welcoming me to Walgreen’s, explaining the transfer of my records, et cetera, so I knew that as of today I would no longer go to Rite-Aid because it was also closing, but to Walgreen’s in a different location.
What now? What happens to our neighborhood shopping center now that one of the main anchors is closing? I’ll adjust. I’ll drive a little farther away from my house. I don’t have a choice. Some might say “It’s just a store.” But to those of us who’ve been going there for over forty years it wasn’t just a store.
The Walgreen's pharmacist at the new location welcomed me today and explained the things I would need to do to be fully registered in their system. I’m sure the service there will be fine, and I’ll get to know her, and if I hadn’t gotten so emotional I might have been able to tell her that I was crying over the loss of a relationship that’s lasted for over half of my life. Such things, even if “just a store” are precious and are mourned for at their passing.